On 22 December 2022, the Juvenile and Family Court in Nonthaburi Province sentenced “Petch” Thanakorn to 3 years of imprisonment for violating Section 112 (lèse-majesté) of the Criminal Code. This marked the second case for Petch and in Thailand in which a child who did not plead guilty to Section 112 charge was convicted by the court. The first time the court convicted a child who did not confess to the crime under Section 112 was on 22 November 2022 in a case in which Petch was also the defendant.
“Petch” Thanakorn (last name withheld), a nineteen-year-old LGBTQ+ activist, was indicted under Sections 112 and 116 (sedition) of the Criminal Code for participating in and giving a speech allegedly critical of the monarchy at the Nonthaburi Pier on 10 September 2020. At the time of the alleged offense, Petch was 17 years old.
According to the indictment order, Petch stated in the 10 September 2020 speech that, inter alia:
“I am one human being. I believe that royal vocabulary should not be used as it divides the society into different classes. Kings in other countries use pronouns ‘you’ and ‘I’, so why can’t the Thai people use the pronouns khun (คุณ) and chun (ฉัน) with children of Sakdina?” (unofficial translation)
“In this era, can we believe that the King is an institution that is our spiritual anchor? The King is not in Thailand. He is in Germany having a good time at the expense of people’s taxes. How can we believe that the King is the spiritual anchor of Thai people?” (unofficial translation)
The indictment order alleged that Petch’s speech was false, and that it defamed or insulted the King who occupies the position of inviolability. The speech allegedly may cause the people to despise, lose faith in, and lose respect for the King. The order also stated that Phiraban intended to destroy the institution of the monarchy which is respected and revered by Thai people.
On 22 December 2022, the Court held that speeches delivered by Petch and other individuals on 10 September 2020—e.g., questioning the use of royal vocabulary, questioning whether the King was in Thailand—evidenced an intention on the part of Petch and the others to bring the King into disrepute, to be despised by the people. By alleging that the King was not in Thailand but Germany having a good time at the expense of people’s taxes, the Court explained, Petch allegedly caused the listeners to despise the King and gave rise to a misunderstanding about the King.
Accordingly, the Court convicted Petch under Section 112 of the Criminal Code and sentenced them to 3 years of imprisonment. Because Petch was 17 years old at the time of the offense, the Court reduced the sentence to a 1-year-and-6-months prison term pursuant to Section 75 of the Criminal Code.
The director of the Juvenile Observation and Protection Center is of the opinion that Petch is likely to re-commit the offense, but, because Petch is still a student and their behavior is not very severe, their behavior is still reformable. For these reasons, in line with the rehabilitative purpose of the Juvenile and Family Court and Procedure Act B.E. 2553 and taking into account Petch’s welfare and future, the Court suspended the sentence for 2 years and required Petch, Petch’s parents, and probation officers to come up with 2-years conditions relating to Petch’s behavior within 2 months. The conditions are to be imposed on Petch after the Court gives its approval.
Petch was acquitted under Section 116 (sedition) of the Criminal Code for want of sufficient evidence from the prosecution. Furthermore, based on the evidence that Petch was contacted by another activist to speak about gender diversity and the use of royal vocabulary, the Court concluded that Petch’s conduct did not amount to incitement and did not create unrest.
It should be noted that Petch submitted a request to the Court for permission to let officers from 2 human rights organizations to be present in the courtroom during the reading of the verdict. The Court granted Petch’s request, but warned the officers to not disseminate the information erroneously.
“Petch” Thanakorn sentenced to 2 years jail term for violating Section 112 but the Central Juvenile and Family court replaced imprisonment with an order to enter a Juvenile Practice and Training Center.